I was at a birthday party and I got so incredibly drunk, that on the following day I couldn’t even remember my own name. I had no idea of who I was, where I was and where I’d been, if I had friends who could rescue me from that situation, if there was any record at all of what had happened, where I could go, if I had any ID or belongings that would help me figure out who I was, among other little things we can usually pinpoint, no matter how intoxicated.
The acuteness of the blackout led me to the conclusion that it most likely wasn’t just another drinking spree, but that someone (or even myself), for some reason, had given me heavy drugs, whose side effect was total amnesia. I decided, as would a detective on a procedural police TV show, to examine my own body in search for evidence. There was something on my left foot that looked like part of a tattoo; the same on my right hand. I removed my long-sleeve T-shirt and pair of jeans, and what I saw left me in a state of total shock.
There was a huge tattoo covering the left side of my body, from the thigh, over the ankle, ending on the foot, enveloping my entire leg. On the right side, my arm was also altered, but it wasn’t only decorated with a tribal-themed full-sleeve tattoo: it had a hole, a literal half-moon-shaped hole, completely cured and healed, as if chiseled by an artist in a piece of clay, as if my flesh wasn’t human, as if it didn’t bleed, or it didn’t hurt. But it was really healed, and it really didn’t hurt. No, my flesh was nothing but carving matter, and my skin nothing but a canvas: something blank, with no personality or sense of self, an amorphous mass, upon which anything can be printed, and into which anything can be shaped.
Both tattoos were strongly colored. The left foot was covered with a triangle-shaped pattern in black, red and other darker shades, the same geometry extending up to the hip. On my arm, I had a large mystical circle, like a mandala. At closer examination, I realized it was a Mayan or Aztec calendar; the central circle, where the sun-stone usually stands, was where my half-moon crater stood. I wondered if I could still be under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, for as I tried to discern the drawing in the middle of the calendar, it seemed to become a sort of stage, surrounded by concentric grandstands: an amphitheater in ancient Rome, shaped like a half-moon indentation, right on the top part of my arm.
Looking at them left me desperate. It’s not only the I didn’t like tattoos, but the fact the ones I was sporting, those huge, colorful, statement-making, body-enveloping drawings, were the last kind of tattoo I could ever be prevailed upon to have, under any circumstances. Adding the actual flesh-carving to the drawings, however, was the icing on the cake, or rather, the fly on the pile of shit. They represented, for me, an instance of self-mutilation, a suicide of the ego, a disrespect towards God and Nature. That much, apparently, I hadn’t forgotten about my previous life.
Could I have the tattoos removed? Maybe, but it wouldn’t work for the hole in my arm. Plastic surgery would help with that, but still I would have nasty scars for the rest of my life. I had no money, so that was out of the question anyways. I had no friends, no possessions, and no name, as far as I knew. Why did I worry so much about this obliteration of an identity I couldn’t even remember? I could struggle and despair some more, but it wasn’t going to make it any easier. The only alternative left was to conform, like the shapeless, supple, moldable material that I was. So I embraced the idea of becoming someone else, change personalities, or rather, assume as my own this other, strange identity, chosen by chance in a moment of insanity. Maybe as I saw things from the perspective of this new me, I would be more adventurous, more fearless. Maybe I would be happier.
After this realization, I remembered my mother and where she lived. It turned out I was there, in the same old house I was brought up. She was horrified at my tattoos, but she said she loved me no matter what. Right at that moment, the inked drawings changed: the tribal symbols and geometric shapes disappeared and gave way to branches of red flowers, like peonies or roses, connected all over my leg up to the hips with leaves and stems in various shades of green and brown. They were even bigger than the ones before, and much more beautiful and delicate. The half-moon-shaped hole was still there, but it looked softer now, as if it were a natural part of my anatomy. Was the new design a reflection of my new-found identity? Was my self-worth always going to depend on the acceptance of others? If my mother had rejected the new me, would the designs have changed at all? Would I ever accept myself for whatever the fuck I was?
The necessity of belonging to a group is one of the defining traits of human beings. Maybe I couldn’t remember my friends because there was nothing to remember. My own personality must have been so fluid that the slightest wisp of wind was enough to take it away, with the exception of childhood memories and stupid prejudices. Maybe it would be easier now to feel as part of a community – the rebellious, the inked, the freaks with holes in their flesh that they carved themselves. Maybe that’s why they carved and marked their bodies in the first place: to make it clear to themselves and other lost souls of the world who they were, so they wouldn’t forget. To simplify the identification: no need to talk, just one look is enough, and you can find your peers, yourself, your world, and feel a little less lonely.